Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov has been named Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 for his photo The embrace.
The winner was announced by the Duchess of Cambridge, patron of the Natural History Museum, London, at an online awards ceremony.
The title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 went to Liina Heikkinen for her photograph The fox that got the goose.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London, where the winning photographs will be on display in an exhibition from 16 October 2020 to 6 June 2021.
See more amazing photos from the competition:
- 16 incredible pictures from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition 2020
- The mice of the London Underground win the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2019 LUMIX People’s Choice Award
- Heart-breaking image of a black rhino tops Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 winners
The embrace – Sergey Gorshkov, Russia
Winner 2020, Animals in their Environment and Grand Title Winner
With an expression of sheer ecstasy, a tigress hugs an ancient Manchurian fir, rubbing her cheek against bark to leave secretions from her scent glands. She is an Amur, or Siberian, tiger, here in the Land of the Leopard National Park, in the Russian Far East.
Perfect balance – Andrés Luis Dominguez Blanco, Spain
Winner 2020, 10 years and under
In spring, the meadows near Andrés’ home in Ubrique, in Andalucia, Spain, are bright with flowers, such as these sweet-scented sulla vetches. Andrés had walked there a few days earlier and seen European stonechats hunting for insects, but they were on the far side of the meadow. He regularly sees and hears stonechats, their calls like two stones tapping together.
A mean mouthful – Sam Sloss, Italy/USA
Winner 2020, 11-14 years old
On a diving holiday in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sam stopped to watch the behaviour of a group of clownfishes as they swam with hectic and repeated patterns in and out and around their home, a magnificent anemone. He was intrigued by the expression of one individual, the result of its mouth being constantly open, holding something.
It was only when he downloaded the photos that he saw tiny eyes peeping out of its mouth. It was a ‘tongue-eating louse’, a parasitic isopod that swims in through the gills as a male, changes sex, grows legs and attaches itself to the base of the tongue, sucking blood.
The fox that got the goose – Liina Heikkinen, Finland
Winner 2020, 15-17 years old, and Young Grand Title Winner
It was on a summer holiday in Helsinki that Liina, then aged 13, heard about a large fox family living in the city suburbs on the island of Lehtisaari. The island has both wooded areas and fox-friendly citizens, and the foxes are relatively unafraid of humans. So Liina and her father spent one long July day, without a hide, watching the two adults and their six large cubs, which were almost the size of their parents, though slimmer and lankier.
It was 7pm when the excitement began, with the vixen’s arrival with a barnacle goose. Feathers flew as the cubs began fighting over it. One finally gained ownership – urinating on it in its excitement. Dragging the goose into a crevice, the cub attempted to eat its prize while blocking access to the others.
See more award-winning photography:
- 10 humorous pictures from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2020
- 20 stunning microscopic photos from the Nikon Small World 2020 competition
- A shark with a heart wins Drone Photo Awards 2020
The pose – Mogens Trolle, Denmark
Winner 2020, Animal Portraits
A young male proboscis monkey cocks his head slightly and closes his eyes. Unexpected pale blue eyelids now complement his immaculately groomed auburn hair. He poses for a few seconds as if in meditation.
In some primate species, contrasting eyelids play a role in social communication, but their function in proboscis monkeys is uncertain. The most distinctive aspect of this young male – sitting apart from his bachelor group – is, of course, his nose. As he matures, it will signal his status and mood (female noses are much smaller) and be used as a resonator when calling. Indeed, it will grow so big that it will hang down over his mouth – he may even need to push it aside to eat.
Life in the balance – Jaime Culebras, Spain
Winner 2020, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles
A Manduriacu glass frog snacks on a spider in the foothills of the Andes, northwestern Ecuador. As big consumers of invertebrates, glass frogs play a key part in maintaining balanced ecosystems. That night, Jaime’s determination to share his passion for them had driven him to walk for four hours, in heavy rain, through the forest to reach the frogs’ streams in Manduriacu Reserve.
But the frogs were elusive and the downpour was growing heavier and heavier. As he turned back, he was thrilled to spot one small frog clinging to a branch, its eyes like shimmering mosaics.
Great crested sunrise – Jose Luis Ruiz Jiménez, Spain
Winner 2020, Behaviour: Birds
After several hours up to his chest in water in a lagoon near Brozas, in the west of Spain, Jose Luis captured this intimate moment of a great crested grebe family.
The grebes are at their most elegant in the breeding season – ornate plumage, crests on their heads, neck feathers that they can fan into ruffs, striking red eyes and pink-tinged bills. They build a nest of aquatic plant material, often among reeds at the edge of shallow water. To avoid predators, their chicks leave the nest within a few hours of hatching, hitching a snug ride on a parent’s back. Here the backlings will live for the next two to three weeks, being fed as fast as their parents can manage.
A tale of two wasps – Frank Deschandol, France
Winner 2020, Behaviour: Invertebrates
This remarkable simultaneous framing of a red-banded sand wasp (left) and a cuckoo wasp, about to enter next-door nest holes, is the result of painstaking preparation. The female Hedychrum cuckoo wasp – just 6 millimetres long – parasitises the nests of certain solitary digger wasps, laying her eggs in her hosts’ burrows so that her larvae can feast on their eggs or larvae and then the food stores.
The much larger red-banded sand wasp lays her eggs in her own burrow, which she provisions with caterpillars, one for each of her young to eat when they emerge.
When mother says run – Shanyuan Li, China
Winner 2020, Behaviour: Mammals
This rare picture of a family of Pallas’s cats, or manuls, on the remote steppes of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau in northwest China is the result of six years’ work at high altitude. These small cats are normally solitary, hard to find and mostly active at dawn and dusk.
Hours of patience were rewarded when the three kittens came out to play, while their mother kept her eye on a Tibetan fox lurking nearby. Their broad, flat heads, with small, low‑set ears, together with their colour and markings, help them stay hidden when hunting in open country, and their thick coats keep them alive in the extreme winters.
Out of the blue – Gabriel Eisenband, Colombia
Winner 2020, Plants and Fungi
It was Ritak’Uwa Blanco, the highest peak in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes, that Gabriel had set out to photograph. Pitching his tent in the valley, he climbed up to photograph the snow-capped peak against the sunset. But it was the foreground of flowers that captured his attention.
Sometimes known as white arnica, the plant is a member of the daisy family found only in Colombia. It flourishes in the high-altitude, herb-rich páramo habitat of the Andes, adapted to the extreme cold with a dense covering of woolly white ‘hair’ and ‘antifreeze’ proteins in its leaves.
See more stunning science photographs:
- Pretty deadly: The world’s most beautiful but dangerous creatures
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The golden moment – Songda Cai, China
Winner 2020, Under Water
A tiny diamondback squid paralarva flits below in the blackness, stops hunting for an instant when caught in the light beam, gilds itself in shimmering gold and then moves gracefully out of the light.
Diamondback squid are widespread in tropical and subtropical oceans, preying on fish, other squid and crustaceans near the surface. In November, hundreds gather off Anilao to spawn. A paralarva is the stage between hatchling and subadult, already recognisable as a squid, here 6–7 centimetres long. Transparent in all stages, a diamondback squid swims slowly, propelled by undulations of its triangular fins (the origin of their name), but by contracting its powerful mantles, it can spurt away from danger.
Chromatophores (organs just below the skin) contain elastic sacs of pigment that stretch rapidly into discs of colour when the muscles around them contract; recent research suggests that they may also reflect light. Deeper in the skin, iridophores reflect and scatter light, adding an iridescent sheen.
Watching you watching them – Alex Badyaev, Russia/USA
Winner 2020, Urban Wildlife
What a treat for a biologist: the species you want to study chooses to nest right outside your window. The Cordilleran flycatcher is declining across western North America as the changing climate causes shrinkage of the riparian habitats (river and other freshwater corridors) along its migratory routes and on its wintering grounds in Mexico. It also happens to be very specific in its choice of nest site.
In Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, it typically nests in crevices and on canyon shelves. But one pair picked this remote research cabin instead, perhaps to avoid predation.
Etna’s river of fire – Luciano Gaudenzio, Italy
Winner 2020, Earth’s Environments
From a great gash on the southern flank of Mount Etna, lava flows within a huge lava tunnel, re-emerging further down the slope as an incandescent red river, veiled in volcanic gases.
To witness the scene, Luciano and his colleagues had trekked for several hours up the north side of the volcano, through stinking steam and over ash-covered chaotic rocky masses – the residues of past eruptions. A wall of heat marked the limit of their approach. Luciano describes the show that lay before him as hypnotic, the vent resembling ‘an open wound on the rough and wrinkled skin of a huge dinosaur’.
Eleonora’s gift – Alberto Fantoni, Italy
Winner 2020, Rising Star Portfolio
On the steep cliffs of a Sardinian island, a male Eleonora’s falcon brings his mate food – a small migrant, probably a lark, snatched from the sky as it flew over the Mediterranean. These falcons – medium-sized hawks – choose to breed on cliffs and small islands along the Mediterranean coast in late summer, specifically to coincide with the mass autumn migration of small birds as they cross the sea on their way to Africa.
The last bite – Ripan Biswas, India
Winner 2020, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio Award
These two ferocious predators don’t often meet. The giant riverine tiger beetle pursues prey on the ground, while weaver ants stay mostly in the trees – but if they do meet, both need to be wary. When an ant colony went hunting small insects on a dry river bed in Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India, a tiger beetle began to pick off some of the ants.
The beetle’s bulging eyes excel at spotting invertebrate prey, which it sprints towards so fast that it has to hold its antennae out in front to avoid obstacles. Its bright orange spots – structural colour produced by multiple transparent reflecting layers – may be a warning to predators that it uses poison (cyanide) for protection. At more than 12 millimetres long, it dwarfed the weaver ants. In defence, one bit into the beetle’s slender hind leg. The beetle swiftly turned and, with its large, curved mandibles, snipped the ant in two, but the ant’s head and upper body remained firmly attached.